Heroin ring laundered drug money through luxury cars and real estate

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Jimmie Goodgame lived in a $800,000 house, controlled bank accounts with more than $1.5 million in deposits and had title to dozens of luxury cars, federal prosecutors said, but he didn’t have the income to justify his lifestyle.
Goodgame, 41, who lives in a gated community of Solon, was among eight people indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury in connection with a distribution ring that sold massive amounts of heroin in Northeast Ohio.
He is accused of laundering money for drug dealers. Addonnise Wells (caution: this pdf document contains graphic language), 28, of South Euclid, and Mario Freeman, 27, of Garfield Heights, are accused of leading the drug distribution network.
Local police had their suspicions about Goodgame for years, investigators said, but only recently could they unmask him as the mastermind of a scheme to launder drug money by purchasing or leasing cars.
The investigation required the cooperation of the FBI, IRS and local police. Investigators used wiretaps, surveillance, vehicle stops and document analysis to build their case. The IRS subpoenaed bank records and sought other documents to show suspected drug dealers driving Porsches and Cadillacs had no legitimate sources of income.
“If they don’t have a job, you have to start looking at their mode of operation,” said Tracey Warren, assistant special agent-in-charge of the IRS division based in Cincinnati. “Where do they go? Who do they meet?”
That paper trail combined with the piecing together of many seemingly unconnected events allowed investigators to dissect a scheme in which Goodgame took drug money and used it to buy or lease more than 40 luxury cars, including Range Rovers, BMWs and a Maserati, officials said.
An important piece of the case fell in place in March of 2007 outside of Chicago when the Illinois Highway Patrol pulled over a car for a traffic violation and found more than $500,000 in cash hidden away in heat-sealed containers. The vehicle was registered to Goodgame, investigators said.
There were at least 10 other traffic stops in Northeast Ohio involving cars registered to Goodgame, his wife, or companies they owned, said assistant U.S. Attorney Ed Feran, who is prosecuting the case. The stops resulted in seizures of money or drugs.
On Nov. 5, 2008, Westlake police officers seized a car in a heroin bust that was leased to a Goodgame-owned shell company called Washington Industries Inc., investigators said.
Authorities then tapped the phones of Goodgame, Wells and Freeman. Prosecutors claim Wells and Freeman sold heroin from houses on East 125th and East 127th streets in Cleveland and used an apartment on Edgewater Drive in Lakewood to stash their dope.
Wells sent tow trucks to Houston to bring back vehicles packed with heroin, according to an FBI affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Cleveland. A source working with investigators claimed he helped take apart 17 vehicles for Wells, with each vehicle containing between six and 22 pounds of heroin, according to the affidavit.
Agents conducted a “sneak and peak” raid on the stash house in Lakewood on Feb. 16 of this year and seized more than a pound of heroin and more than $8,000 in cash. A sneak and peak raid, which must be authorized by a judge, allows police to search a house without notifying the suspect.
After selling their drugs, dealers often look for some way to unload their cash. A bank is often out of the question because large deposits can come under scrutiny. So they can hold on to their money and risk it being confiscated, or they can buy something with it, such as cars or real estate.
The FBI affidavit suggests Wells bought homes and put them in the names of relatives.
Drug dealers sometimes start cash businesses, such as used car lots, bars and barber shops, where ill-gotten gains can be passed through with nobody the wiser.
Using someone like Goodgame is another way to go, prosecutors said. The dealers can get their hands on a luxury car. And if they get busted, the car can’t be seized because it belongs to somebody else.
“Luxury cars and drug traffickers go together like peanut butter and jelly,” Feran said.
Prosecutors claim Goodgame deposited more than $1.5 million into accounts he controlled. He would then buy or lease the vehicles and turn them over to the drug dealers.
Goodgame had at least 14 cars registered in his name in 2010, with another 26 or more registered in the name of his companies J & G Enterprises I LLC and Washington Industries, investigators said.
Other cars were registered in the name of his wife Stacy, 40, and her company Goodgame Heavenly Cleaning. The cleaning business was legitimate and generated income, but was still used to help launder drug money, Feran said.
But Goodgame’s lifestyle belied his income. Despite owning such an expensive home, he tried to acquire school lunch vouchers for his children, according to the FBI. He is also suspected of buying and selling food stamps.
Goodgame had been suspected of laundering drug money for years as a result of prior investigations, said Pete Bickmore, who heads the criminal division of the local FBI office. But he was never prosecuted.
“Money laundering investigations are hard to prove,” he said.
Part of the problem is proving the money being laundered was acquired through a specific crime, such as drug sales, gambling or public corruption, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Pinjuh, who heads up his office’s narcotics division.

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